Public Citizen, SEIU Urge FDA to Ban ‘Unsafe’ Needle Devices
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Jane Henney, the advocacy group Public Citizen and the Service Employees International Union have called for the "immediate ban" of certain types of intravenous catheters, blood collection devices, butterfly syringes, glass capillary tubes and IV infusion equipment to prevent approximately 590,000 annual needle stick injuries. Reuters Health reports that the two groups are asking the FDA to "issue performance standards to prevent new, unsafe devices from entering the market." The request comes four weeks after President Clinton signed legislation requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to "strengthen its standard[s]" on bloodborne pathogens, including requirements for health care facilities to use "safer needles" (Reuters Health, 11/30). Public Citizen and SEIU argue that the new standards are "too slow," as they allow hospitals to evaluate safety needles after the law takes effect next summer. In addition, OSHA will be responsible for enforcing the regulations on a "workplace-by-workplace" basis. An FDA ban, however, would keep "unsafe" products from entering the workplace. Manufacturers have lobbied against such a ban in the past, arguing that "market forces" would ensure safer products were used (Carlsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/30). While noting that the "safer needles" are more expensive, the petitioners say removal of "unsafe devices" would bring down costs due to needle-related injuries. SEIU President Andrew Stern said, "Determining which devices will prevent exposures and which should be removed from the healthcare market is the unique jurisdiction of the FDA" (Reuters Health, 11/30). Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said, "Cutting off an epidemic of needle-borne infections at the source is the only effective public health strategy." The FDA is reviewing the petition (Carlsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.